If it weren't for all the embellished statements!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2017

Would there by any statements at all:
We'll admit to a grim fascination with a certain cable news star.

We regard Donald J. Trump as our most disordered public figure. After him, we'll have to admit that the cable star just may rank number two.

In part, it's the astonishing degree of self-involvement. Last night, the star was talking about herself right out of the gate.

In her second minute, she was offering this. "I I I I I I I," the analysts all started yelling:
UNNAMED CABLE STAR (7/18/17): I know you`ve heard a little bit today about there being an eighth man who is in that meeting and the identity of the eighth man. You've probably heard a little bit of that today...

But we're going to start tonight with this late-breaking news.

So this is a little window into my work day. Whole staff is working away today. You know, the cubicle farm is really humming. People are in and out of everybody'S offices, like we know what we're doing. We`re working on the show.

I'm in my office, threatened to be buried under teetering piles of paper, as usual. We're all working away like we usually do.

By this point, almost six months into the Trump administration, we as a staff are now used to big stories about the Trump administration breaking late in the day and then we have to throw our plans out the window and start to cover instead what the other new bombshell is. We're used to that.

But even with the fact that we are used to that timing now and to stuff breaking late in the day, when these headlines popped tonight, when this story first crossed, "Trump/Putin held a second undisclosed meeting at the G20," when this started to cross tonight our newsroom, it caused an audible "Oh my God" to ripple across our cubicle farm.

"Oh, my God! Seriously?"
Awww! "Across the cubicle farm."

All the familiar hooks were there, mainly the humble-bragging self-denigration in service to huge self-involvement.

The star conducted an interview with Ian Bremmer about that Trump-Putin conversation. And then, sure enough! Just like that, she returned to her favorite topic:
BREMMER: Yes, my pleasure.

UNNAMED CABLE STAR: All right. Thanks. Yes.

Like I said, the news came across, "Second undisclosed meeting between Trump and Putin."

[Pretends to draw on map]

My office is like here, and my executive producer's office is like here, and the other offices for everybody who works on the staff kind of splay around the corner like this. I heard it coming like a stadium wave made audible.

"Oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God, oh, my God, did you see this? Oh, my God."

Oh, my God. Today's news. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
You just can't tell us that's normal.

The star made her standard overstatements and misstatements last night. She again displayed a new hook, the one in which she pretends that she can't pronounce some funny new name, in this case the name of one of the Russkies:
UNNAMED CABLE STAR: Also, we know as of today, the meeting [with the Russian lawyer] included the apparent poster child for Russian money laundering in U.S. banks, a dual national named Ike—forgive me—Kaveladze? Maybe? Maybe that's how you say it?
She had all day to learn the name, she never learned how to say it?
But this has become a standard hook. Presumably, it's intended to make her seem more authentic, just a bit more like us.

In fact, it's one of the ten million ways she's constantly selling the car. It's designed to make us feel we want to help and protect her.

Something isn't quite right with this person. We liberals refuse to admit it.

Instant misstatement: Even before she went all "I-I-I," the cable star offered this:
UNNAMED CABLE STAR: This is a remarkable place we have ended up, right?

In this last election, Republicans got control of the Senate. They got control of the House. They got control of the White House, and even with that total control in Washington, they really are about to hit six months in power, which I think they hit on Thursday of this week.

By the end of this week, it will be six months in power with Republicans in control of all branches of government and they will have not passed a single substantial piece of legislation. I mean, they can pass anything they want to with zero Democratic votes. They only have to line up votes in their own party. And still they have passed nothing.
Bullshit like that makes us liberals feel good. On Fox, they used to play this game with respect to Obama.

Surely, though, the cable star has heard about the general need for sixty votes in the Senate to get most measures passed. She does know about that, right?

Why does the cable star do these things? We don't know, but this big giant cable star does these weird things every night. You can hear the sycophants chuckling off-camera.

Was Donald Trump Junior's first statement a lie?

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2017

Again with the basic skills:
We've been catching up on old blog posts today. We were intrigued by a discussion by Kevin Drum.

The post appeared last Saturday. Drum was reacting to Shepard Smith's complaints about the Trump camp's serial "lies."

(Why didn't we see the post in real time? If you ever decide to fact-check Maddow, you'll find you have time for little else, pretty much just like us.)

"Journalists are reluctant to call something a lie, and with good reason," Drum wrote. He then presented the basic reasons behind this long-standing policy, which is, on the whole, very wise.

(That's especially true for reporters, as opposed to opinion writers. But, for about ten million reasons, it's basically wise all around.)

In the passage shown below, Drum explained why journalists have, by long tradition, avoided dropping L-bombs. On the one hand, this is extremely basic stuff. On the other hand, his reasoning is basically sound:
DRUM (7/15/17): Journalists are reluctant to call something a lie, and with good reason. To be a lie, something has to be incontrovertibly untrue and the speaker has to know it’s untrue. Politicians say incontrovertibly untrue things frequently, but it’s the second part of this formula that trips us up. Short of mind reading, how can we know that they were aware of the falsehood?

Occasionally, of course, we really can know for sure.
Most of the time, though, we just have to do our best, and we have to apply a standard of “beyond reasonable doubt,” not “beyond all possible doubt.”
Most of the time, a journalist can't be sure that a misstatement was a lie. Still, Drum says, there are times we can know for sure.

There are times when we know that a statement's a lie. As Drum continues, he gives a recent example:
DRUM (continuing directly): In the case of Don Jr. and the meeting with the Russian attorney, we have proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We know that his first statement was not off the cuff, but carefully crafted on Air Force One by the White House. He said it was just a quick meeting about Russian adoptions. The next day, after the New York Times demonstrated this was untrue, he admitted it was actually about getting dirt on Hillary. Two days later, after the Times once again poked holes in his story, he released emails showing that he knew beforehand it was part of a Russian government effort to smear Hillary Clinton.

At each step along the way, he admitted only what he had to. He revealed more only when forced by the Times. No reasonable person thinks he just forgot about all this until the Times jogged his memory. He was, obviously, lying.
The reasoning here seems amazing. Drum cites Trump Junior's initial statement as an example of a clear-cut lie. And then, he offers a paraphrase of what Trump Junior said! He doesn't even quote him!

Before we started The Daily Howler, we toyed with two other ideas.

First, we thought about writing a spoof called "My Life on Earth, Among 'The People.' " It would have been the story of a being from a more advanced world.

In the story, the author would have been sent to Earth to send back dispatches about these amusing, primitive lifeforms called "people." In short, the author would have been sent to Earth to amuse his own society's rulers.

This spoof would have been written as a parody of 19th century dispatches from British explorers discussing more "primitive" people. We abandoned the gloomy idea when we realized that we didn't the slightest idea how to write such a parody.

After that, we planned a comic novel called Socrates Reads. Eventually, we settled on The Daily Howler.

Who would do what Drum did here? Who would present a paraphrased statement as the ultimate example of an obvious "lie?"

In the past two weeks, we've been musing on the level of basic skills possessed by us the people. By human standards, Kevin Drum is quite smart.

That said, who reasons like that? Who would cite a paraphrased statement as the perfect example of an obvious lie?

Concerning that initial statement: Having said that, is it true? Did Trump Junior's initial statement qualify as a "lie?"

In this July 9 report by the New York Times, his initial statements are quoted at considerable length. For various reasons known to past humans, we would go with a no.

By traditional standards, we wouldn't say that his quoted statements were obvious lies. All in all, it isn't even clear to us that his statements were misstatements. (If we try to use our words, we can probably describe the situation more clearly.)

(Here's the Day Two New York Times report, with Trump Junior's second-day statements.)

Might we make one final statement about the desire to drop L-bombs? Our statement goes something like this:

Lies tend to be in the eye of the beholder. Conservatives can rattle off a long list of lies by Barack Obama. It isn't entirely clear that their claims are always wrong.

Example:

Remember when Candidate Obama said he didn't favor an individual mandate—that it wouldn't be necessary? That helped him beat Candidate Clinton and then McCain. He suddenly changed his mind after winning the November 2008 election.

Was his original statement a "lie?" Within the political sphere, little is ever gained by attempting to make such assessments. That's especially true at highly partisan times.

The Others are always seen as the liars. It never seems true Over Here.

THE RELIABLE ABSENCE OF BASIC SKILLS: Gessen reads from Donald J. Trump!

WEDNESDAY, JULY 19, 2017

Part 2—Crowd cheers embarrassing fail:
At various times in the past thirty years, our news orgs began composing transcripts, which they would post on-line.

They posted transcripts of their TV shows, including their "cable news" programs. They posted transcripts of interviews with public figures.

Both in theory and in practice, this is a good idea. If you want to be able to critique your nation's public discourse, it's very helpful to have a record of the various things that get said. Even by cable performers!

That said, there are problems. As with everything else our news orgs do, they tend to be a bit slipshod in their production of transcripts. Often the transcripts are composed by machines, which on occasion may misfire even more than we humans do!

Computer-generated transcripts will sometimes include comical errors in the attempt to record the words which were actually said. Beyond that, these transcripts will often be riddled with punctuation errors as the computers attempt to record the structure of the thoughts expressed, along with the mere strings of words.

A third problem is quote common within our news org transcripts. Especially in our entertaining "cable news" pseudo-discussions, the various children asked to perform are often all speaking at once.

Lazy news orgs adopt various strategies to adjust for the resulting confusion. They rarely seem to ask real humans to listen to the audiotapes to complete the record of what the various people in these shoutfests actually said.

Have you ever tried to figure out what some person actually said on one of our lively "news shows?" Have you ever tried to publish a record of what was said that is both complete and fair?

If so, you know how annoying it can be to work with news org transcripts. When a transcript merely says [CROSSTALK], you may have to listen, again and again, to discern what was actually said.

This may take hours out of your day. Here at our own award-winning site, we've provided that type of award-winning service for way too many years.

We've burned many hours out of our lives correcting and completing erroneous transcripts published by major news orgs. Evidence suggests that Masha Gessen has never engaged in such acts.

Don't get us wrong! Gessen is a highly respected figure; in our view, she should be. As a journalist, Gessen has walked the walk. Attention should be paid.

That said, we currently live in a largely skill-free world. Within the realm of American journalism, the reliable absence of basic skills can, as a rule, be assumed.

Meanwhile, the professors walked off their posts long ago. Even in basic, egregious cases, they can't be expected to help.

Gessen displayed a certain lack of basic skills when she gave a recent lecture. We're forced to note that she also displayed a lack of basic due diligence.

On May 7, Gessen delivered the Arthur Miller Lecture as part of the 2017 PEN World Voices Festival. She was then interviewed by Samantha Bee, a well-known, completely capable comedian who seemed to know that she lacked the background and the skills to serve in this new capacity.

The interview was an awkward waste of time. We'll focus on Gessen's lecture.

Have we mentioned the fact that Masha Gessen has walked the walk, and deserves the respect she is granted? As she started her lecture, she spoke about an important topic—the destruction of the public discourse in her native Russia by the end of the Soviet era.

(Warning: Gessen is another one of "the Russians!" If you hate the idea of receiving information from such people, you should likely stop reading right now.)

Because Gessen has walked the walk, she knows whereof she spoke. That doesn't mean that her judgments were automatically correct, since no one's judgments are.

It means that she, unlike our cable clowns, has earned and deserves our respect.

Gessen was motoring along rather nicely as her lecture proceeded. You can read an edited version of her lecture here. You can watch her lecture in full via this YouTube tape.

Gessen was discussing a very important topic. But then, at one point, she began to read from a recent transcript.

The transcripts had been published,
two weeks before, by the Associated Press. It recorded, or tried to record, a lengthy interview in which the AP's Julie Pace spoke with Donald J. Trump.

In part 1 of this report, we noted some of the obvious problems which appear at the start of this AP transcript. Gessen's lecture began to break down when she started quoting, or pretending to quote, something Donald J. Trump is said to have said by that AP transcript.

Let's be fair! Gessen received a great deal of laughter and applause as she quoted, or seemed to quote, what Trump had said to Pace. Around the 12:30 mark of the YouTube tape, she starts to set the scene for her reading of Trump's remarks with these comments about the way Trump uses words:
GESSEN (5/7/17): Donald Trump has an instinct for doing both of the kinds of violence to language that are familiar to me from speaking and writing in Russian. He has a particular nose for taking words and phrases that deal with power relationships and turning them into their opposite.

Think about, for example, how he used the phrase “safe space” when talking about Mike Pence’s visit to Hamilton.

The vice-president-elect, he was booed and then passionately and very respectfully addressed by the cast of the show. And Trump was tweeting that the show should not have happened because, he said, theater should be a safe space.

Now, the thing about the phrase “safe space” is that it was coined to describe a place where people who usually feel unsafe and powerless would feel exceptionally safe. Claiming that the second most powerful man in the world should be granted a “safe space,” in public, turns the concept precisely on its head.

And he really does have a talent for doing this. He performed the exact same trick on the phrase “witch hunt,” which he claimed was being carried out by the Democrats to avenge their electoral loss.

Witch hunts cannot actually be carried out by losers.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

The agent of the witch hunt must have power. And of course, he has seized and flipped the term “fake news” in much the same way.

But he also has a talent for using words in ways that make them mean nothing. Everyone is "great" and everything is "tremendous." Any word can be given or taken away. NATO can be obsolete and then no longer obsolete, which challenges not only our shared understanding of the word “obsolete” but also our shared experience of linear time.

[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

And then there is Trump’s ability to take words and throw them into a pile that means nothing.

I'm actually going to subject you to an excerpt from an interview that he did with AP for the hundred days.
It was really hard to choose because the whole interview's like this...
Already, we'd be inclined to disagree with some of Gessen's judgments. But at this point, at the 14:45 mark on that tape, you can see Gessen as she starts to quote Trump—and at this point in Gessen's lecture, our idealistic young analysts began to scream, writhe and wail.

Like the girls in Salem during the aforementioned witch hunts, they claimed the presence of destructive forces as Gessen performed her public reading of Donald J. Trump's remarks. From there, Gessen proceeded to criticize NPR in a way which we thought was strikingly odd, but typical of the age.

Quite plainly, Gessen's reading of Donald J. Trump betrayed a lack of due diligence. Her criticism of NPR was, in our view, a marker of an under-skilled era.

Tomorrow, we'll try to explain the basic problems with Gessen's reading of Donald J. Trump. We'll note the problems which obtain with her critique of NPR.

Gessen isn't a cable clown. She's a real live serious intelligent journalist who has earned full respect.

For that reason, her lack of due diligence, and her basic errors, are especially worth nothing. And oh, dear lord, that liberal crowd!

How did we ever reach the point where Donald J. Trump holds the nuclear codes? In our view, Gessen's lecture, and that admiring audience, helps supply an answer to that important question.

It's a question which rarely seems to trouble our own liberal heads.

Tomorrow: As the analysts wail

How silly can these stampedes get?

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017

No speculation refused:
How silly can a press corps stampede get?

In our previous post, we let you ask us about the way we started our search this morning.

How did yesterday morning begin? We started by watching Natasha Bertrand's guest appearance on MSNBC's First Look.

Bertrand is one of the genuine youngsters. She graduated from Vassar in June 2014.

Today, she writes for Business Insider, where she's a "senior reporter."

Yesterday morning, as we watched, it seemed to us that the First Look team was expecting her to say something of interest. It also seemed to us that the big bombshell never quite came.

We decided to Google it out. Over the weekend, we discovered, Bertrand had posted this report.

In her report, Bertrand had advanced another fine speculation. She speculated that President Trump himself had attended the now-famous meeting with the Russian lawyer! It wasn't just Donald Trump Junior. It was President Trump himself!

Presumably, this highly improbable speculation landed Bertrand that guest spot on First Look. Presumably, someone may have told her not to repeat such an improbable speculation, and so the guest spot never really took off.

Those are speculations. Bertrand's speculation seems rather far-fetched, but a stampede is on. We thought it might be worth your time to consider the source of her speculation.

On Sunday morning, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow did all five Sunday shows. At one point, on ABC's This Week, Sekulow engaged in a bit of a reach.

Bertrand described it at the start of her report. Improbable headline included:
BERTRAND (7/16/17): Trump's lawyer let something slip about the Russia meeting that raises questions about whether Trump attended

President Donald Trump's lawyer told ABC News on Sunday morning that Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last June with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin was innocent because if it weren't, the Secret Service would not have "allowed these people in."

"I wonder why the Secret Service—if this was nefarious—why the Secret Service allowed these people in?" Sekulow told ABC News' Jon Karl. "The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me."
As it turned out, the Secret Service wasn't protecting Trump Junior in June 2016. They weren't restricting who could get in to see him, other than to check for the presence of weapons.

With respect to Bertrand, Sekulow's comment somehow made her think that Donald Trump Senior had attended the now-famous meeting. To examine her reasoning, you can peruse her piece.

Bertrand was stretching bigly. But by Monday morning, all the children knew that Sekulow had said a stupid thing. This provided some of the needed scandal fodder for Monday's "cable news."

On various cable shows, Sekulow was banged around for having said such a stupid thing. On the Maddow Show, the take-down ended with a stinging punchline:
MADDOW (7/17/17): The Secret Service doesn't comment on stuff like this. But after that guy went on TV and said that, they had to put out a statement saying, that's not how it works.

"Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the United States Secret Service in June 2016. Thus, we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time."

The duh is silent.
According to Maddow, the duh was silent! We all enjoyed a good laugh.

In truth, it actually was fairly dumb for Sekulow to make that comment. That said, we remembered Anderson Cooper's program from the previous Monday, July 10.

The next day, we told you that it had been a very bad evening on cable. In part, it was because of the ugly discussion of this very point on Cooper's devolving program.

Ryan Lizza went on and on, and on and on, insisting that the Russian lawyer could never have entered Trump Tower without being heavily vouched for. The Secret Service would never have allowed such a thing to occur!

When Trump supporter Jason Miller kept insisting that Lizza was wrong, all the gang beat him up, making little attempt to disguise their contempt for his manifest dumbness and dishonesty.

It seemed to us that the mob was probably wrong that night, and that Miller was probably right. It also seemed to us that the whole discussion was ginormously pointless, but this has largely become the norm on Cooper's devolving program.

The open contempt the mob displayed was, in our view, a bad and discouraging look. Lizza, Cooper and former Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon all displayed open contempt for the person who turned out to be right.

Below, you see the transcript from the panel's second discussion of this moronic point. As it turned out, Miller was actually right, and the mob was actually wrong.

But Lizza, Cooper and everyone else were filled with contempt for the obvious way Miller was dissembling and wrong. We were amazed to see how far Lizza's standards have fallen in these tribal times.

Ryan Lizza isn't a lawyer, but he played one on TV this night. We can't vouch for the perfect accuracy of the transcript, but the gist of the chat is clear:
LIZZA (7/10/17): I want to ask Jason something. Jason, because you know this. You worked at Trump Tower, right, Jason?

MILLER: Yes, of course.

LIZZA: Can you get into Trump Tower without showing an identification?

MILLER: Yes.

LIZZA: You can just walk up to the offices of the Trump Organization with no ID and not revealing who you are?

MILLER: Not any more. But again—

LIZZA: But as of June of 2016, when that place was locked down by the Secret Service, you could walk in there without showing ID?

MILLER: There's plenty of times I entered without an ID.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Wait a minute, Jason. I mean, the Secret Service, in June, when he's the candidate, would allow a random stranger to come to the office?

MILLER: Well, if you're escorted by someone. But again, this was an acquaintance that made the introduction, who said this is someone who might have some interesting information, and he sat down with them, it was a 20-minute meeting.

COOPER: All right.

MILLER: And it was a throwaway. I mean, it's— I don't understand how, Brian, how you're trying to get away with making stuff up—

FALLON: Just answer Ryan's question. You can't even answer the question.

LIZZA: I just— The thing that struck me about this whole story is it doesn't make sense. When it's a building like Trump Tower, it was one of the most secure buildings in America as of June in 2016. So, the idea that this woman could walk in there without identifying herself to the person she was meeting with doesn't pass the smell test.

You worked there. You're telling us that people routinely got into that building without identifying themselves?

MILLER: I'm saying I don't remember when I would show the ID, but again—

LIZZA: Do you ever remember anyone you met with bringing that person up and that person didn't have to show identification if they were going to a meeting with you?

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: Ryan, I don't understand the point that you're trying to get here.

LIZZA: The point is that he said he didn't know the person's identification and I'm trying to understand how that's possible. How could—

MILLER: So, OK, let me go down your rabbit hole, Brian.

LIZZA: It's not a rabbit hole, Jason. It's just a fundamental fact that is—

(CROSSTALK)

MILLER: No, it's an absolute rabbit hole, Ryan. So, here's the deal. So say somebody showed an ID when they're coming into Trump Tower. I'm playing your game for a moment, so let's go ahead and play it.

LIZZA: It's not a game. It's just a question.

MILLER: Say, you go and check the ID, they don't go and check it at the door and the elevator. That's not like a five-step ID check. That's just the reality of it.

Maybe there was at Brooklyn, maybe at Brian's campaign, there was a different setup. At Trump Tower, there's not as again, at that point in June or so after the president had captured the nomination, there wasn't as structured a setup.

COOPER: But the Secret Service didn't ask for names or Social Security numbers of people who are going to be coming to the office?

MILLER: I can't speak to the exact background of every single, the way that the Secret Service did this on every single time. But, again, I think it's a little bit ironic that you guys are trying to make this big issue about, you know, where exactly you're going to show I.D. At no point in that was Don Jr. checking somebody's I.D.

The fact to the matter is, he had an acquaintance that said, "Hey, I want to chat with you." They come in. They sit down. They're talking absolutely nonsense. Twenty minutes later, they're gone.

COOPER: All right. We have to take a break. We'll ponder all of that.

Up next, what we know about the Russian attorney who met with the president's son-in-law and campaign chair and son last summer.
You would have had to watch the program to see the hostility and disbelief from the people who were factually wrong.

As a general matter, "(CROSSTALK)" means that everyone was snarking at Miller all at once. We thought it was a very bad, very discouraging look.

Last Sunday morning, Sekulow raised a version of this pointless point. In the process, he made a dumb remark.

To Bertrand, the comment suggested that Donald Trump Senior had attended the now-famous meeting. No speculation will be refused when a major stampede is on, certainly not from a senior reporter three years out of college.

This is the way our press corps works. As a group, our upper-end press corps just isn't enormously sharp.

Anderson Cooper conned you last night!

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017

That's where this search began:
The children are currently on a stampede. And when the children stage a stampede, the misinformation flows like a mighty rain.

If you want to be a functioning citizen, you need the understand this fact about the children's stampedes. If you only want to be entertained, frightened and tribally pleased, you need read no further.

The children are currently on a stampede. With that in mind, consider what happened when we read this post, the first thing we read today.

The post appears at New York Magazine, a well-known, major news site. First, though, a bit of background concerning an event which happened yesterday.

Yesterday, Sean Spicer held one of his no-videotape press events. He did allow his remarks to be captured on audiotape. At one point, this underwhelming Q-and-A occurred:
QUESTION (7/17/17): Thank you, Sean. The President tweeted earlier today that most politicians would have gone into the meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. He said that's politics.

His FBI Director nominee said that anyone who was approached by a hostile government for opposition research should contact the FBI rather than taking the meeting.

Who's right? And what's the White House's position on whether or not it's okay to meet with a hostile government for opposition research?

SPICER: Well look, you know I'm not going to get into the specifics of this. But I will say that it is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is. That's what, simply, he did.

The president has made it clear through his tweet. And there was nothing that, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.

But I would refer you back to counsel on that one.
As usual, we've checked that transcript against the audiotape. As best we can tell, that's an exact record of what was actually said.

You'll note that Spicer starts by acknowledging an obvious fact. He acknowledges the fact that Donald Trump Junior held the now-famous meeting in question because "it is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is.

"That's what, simply, he did," Spicer says. He then refers to Trump Senior's tweet, in which Trump Senior said the same thing.

By the norms of White House spokespeople, Spicer is rather inarticulate. That said, he plainly acknowledged an obvious fact:

Donald Trump Junior attended that now-famous meeting in search of (negative) information about Candidate Clinton. Spicer directly referred to Donald Trump Senior's earlier tweet, which also acknowledged the same basic fact.

Donald Trump Junior attended that meeting in search of (negative) info! It's obvious that that's what Spicer said at the start of his statement. Unless you were watching cable last night, in which case he didn't say anything like that!

If you were watching cable last night, Spicer's answer was edited in a way which gave the children the nightly scandal they so desperately crave and need. If you were watching Anderson Cooper, you saw the multimillionaire corporate star mislead you through the wonders of editing.

In the second minute of his 8 PM hour, Cooper said that Spicer's statement had been "flat-out false." He said this after eliminating the part of Spicer's statement which would have debunked that claim.

Below, you see what Cooper did and said. Assuming minimal competence on Cooper's part, this represents an act of flat-out deception:
COOPER (7/17/17): Later today, during another no-cameras-allowed press conference, press secretary Sean Spicer gave an explanation for Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting that's flat-out false.

SPICER (audiotape): The president has made it clear through his tweet. And there was nothing that, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.

COOPER: So Sean Spicer is saying that there was nothing that would lead anyone to believe that the meeting was for any other purpose than to discuss Russian adoptions and sanctions.

That answer, it ignores the chain of e-mails that Donald Trump Jr. himself released under pressure saying the meeting was about information on Hillary Clinton provided by the Russian government. Sean Spicer's answer is as if all the revelations this past week about who was at the meeting, who they claimed to represent, and what was said simply never happened at all.

Keeping them honest, that defense didn't even work two Saturdays ago. It started crumbling the next day. Tonight, just demonstrably false.
"Keeping them honest!" Yes, he actually said it!

Through the miracle of selective editing, viewers didn't hear the part of Spicer's statement in which he acknowledged that Trump Junior held the meeting in search of negative information. Cooper and a few other children then spent considerable time worrying themselves about Spicer's failure to acknowledge what Junior had done—a failure Cooper had created through a misleading edit.

Cooper baldly misled his viewers. But this is what the children do when a stampede is on. And let's be fair to Cooper:

Spicer's statement was "edited" that way all over non-Fox cable last night! Everybody got to pretend that they were hugely upset by his crazy refusal to acknowledge what Junior had done!

Because we aren't the world's dumbest bunnies, we wondered about the edit of Spicer's statement when we watched Cooper last night. Plainly, the edit seemed shaky.

We wondered what Spicer's full statement had sounded like. We wondered about the antecedents to the (plainly edited) remarks which we were permitted to hear.

Early this morning, we fired up the Dell and turned to New York Magazine's Daily Intelligencer site. Because we still wondered what Spicer had said, we greedily clicked on this item:
Yesterday at 5:21 p.m.
Spicer: Seriously, Donald Jr.’s Meeting Was About Adoption
By Benjamin Hart
Riiiight.
From that headline and that one-word snark, you can probably tell what happened. Benjamin Hart had spun this item pretty much as it was spun all over cable last night.

That said, Hart did provide the full audiotape of Spicer's Q-and-A. We played the tape, and sure enough:

The analysts screamed and wailed as their suspicions were confirmed.

That's right, citizens! Cooper and a gang of fellow cable hacks pretty much conned you last night. They dropped the part of Spicer's statement where he acknowledged what Trump Junior did. Then, they wailed about the fact that Spicer hadn't acknowledged the conduct.

To read Hart's full post, just click here. As we read it, we were struck by a few statements Hart had made himself, and so our search continued.

Specifically, we were struck by the highlighted phrases below. In those passages, Hart describes that now-famous Russian lawyer and her now-famous, much-maligned fellow traveler:
HART (7/17/17): Asked whether the White House believes it’s acceptable to meet with a foreign power offering opposition research, Spicer defended Donald Jr.’s sit-down, adding, “There was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.”

Yes, adoptions. Never mind that one of the attendees at the eight-person meeting was a KGB-connected lawyer, and another was an ex-Soviet counterintelligence official known for opposition research...
Interesting! Is the now-famous Russian lawyer "KGB-connected?"

We didn't think we'd ever seen her described that way. We decided to click Hart's link, thereby checking the source for this scary claim.

Is the now-famous Russian lawyer "KGB-connected?" When we clicked Hart's link, it took us to this report by Julia Ioffe at the Atlantic.

(Warning! Ioffe is one of "the Russians" too, based the standards which quickly surfaced during our current Red scare.)

We reread Ioffe's report, which we'd already read this weekend. At no point is the KGB mentioned in any way, shape or form.

Repeat:

At no point is the KGB mentioned, cited, alluded to, named, hinted at or discussed. And yet, this was supposed to be the source for Hart's exciting claim.

It's always dangerous to say that something isn't in a report. That said, we find nothing in Ioffe's report to justify New York Magazine's claim that the now-famous Russian lawyer is "KGB-connected."

Hart, a recent hire, seems to have dreamed that up. It's the sort of thing the children do when a stampede is on.

You'll note that we also highlighted Hart's description of the Russian lawyer's fellow traveler, Rinat Akhmetshin. As many other people have done, Hart described him, late yesterday afternoon, as "an ex-Soviet counterintelligence officer."

That's a scary description. It returns us to Rachel Maddow's appalling, gong-show opening segment on her eponymous "cable news" program last Friday night.

As we've often told you, Maddow is constantly selling the car. On that program, she stated, on two ccasions, that her own amazing NBC News was the first news org to tell the world that Akhmetshin is "a former Soviet counterintelligence officer."

Maddow was referring to this July 14 report by NBC's Ken Dilanian. By the next day, Dilanian had offered this second report, in which he substantially softened his scary description of Akhmetshin's military service.

Still and all, the initial scary description lives on in reports like Hart's. This leads us to ask two questions:
A tale of two questions:
1) Is it sensible—is it accurate—to describe Akhmetshin in the way Hart did?

2) Where did that description originate?
Let's start with that first question. Is it sensible to describe Akhmetshin as "a former Soviet counterintelligence officer?"

By now, everyone seems to agree on some basic facts. Akhmetshin served in the Soviet army for two years as a teen-aged draftee.

How many 19-year-old "counterintelligence officers" did the Red Army have at that time? It seems to us that Hart's scary description may perhaps be a bit overwrought. We'd like to see a fuller analysis.

With that, let's turn to our second question. Where did that scary description come from in the first place?

It entered the current news flow with Dilanian's July 14 NBC report. But on what basis did Dilanian offer that scary description?

In a classic example of skill-free journalism, Dilanian's report didn't say. He dropped his bomb in his opening paragraph, saying only that NBC News had "learned" this frightening fact.

Dilanian didn't cite a source. When the children stage their stampedes, they tend to do things like this.

Where did the giants at NBC News get their alleged information? Where did they get the idea that Akhmetshin can sensibly be described, in a giant bold headline, as a "Former Soviet Counterintelligence Officer?"

Alas! Deep in their report, the NBC stars link to this letter from Senator Grassley, the tired old Republican hack. Grassley has been chasing Akhmetshin around, in part because Akhmetshin "was reportedly working with Fusion GPS, the company that oversaw the creation of the controversial dossier alleging a conspiracy between President Trump and the Russian government, on the pro-Russian lobbying effort at the same time the dossier was being created."

That's right! In part, Grassley was angry at Akhmetshin because he was affiliated with the org which created the anti-Trump dossier! At any rate, the link to Grassley probably leads to the original source of Dilanian's scary claim. Here's why we say that:

Grassley's letter claims that Akhmetshin "has admitted having been a 'Soviet counterintelligence officer.' " As we mentioned yesterday, Grassley sources this statement to a Politico report in which no such admission or claim is made.

After checking a web of citations, we find that the claim most likely originated here, in a second Politico report from last November. We'll only note that Akhmetshin isn't quoted describing himself that way. A Politico writer described him that way, claiming to be paraphrasing something Akhmetshin said.

That's an extremely shaky basis for making a claim of that type. Careful journalists would be very reluctant to function in this way.

At the present time, however, a major stampede is on. Dilanian ran with the thrilling unsourced claim, then walked it back the next day.

Let's summarize! Here's what happened last Friday:

Dilanian threw an unsourced claim into a giant bold headline. That evening, Maddow trumpeted the claim, part of a 20-minute opening segment in which she conned her liberal viewers within an inch of their lives.

By the next day. Dilanian offered a second report in which he softened his claim. But there was Hart, in our first click today, repeating the exciting claim—and offering a second, falsely-sourced claim, in which the now-famous Russian lawyer is excitingly said to be "KGB-connected."

In the past two weeks, we've been asking you to consider a basic question. Which is the more helpful heuristic as we ponder the work of our skill-free journalists?
A tale of two ultimate questions:
Are we humans sensibly viewed as "the rational animal?" Or are we perhaps more profitably viewed as a bunch of misfiring machines?
Wittgenstein went with the latter description. In fairness, he was mainly talking about philosophers and philosophy professors.

We'll suggest that Hart, Dilanian, Cooper and Maddow neatly fit the machine construct too. Anderson Cooper conned you last night. That's where this search began.

THE RELIABLE ABSENCE OF BASIC SKILLS!

TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2017

Our series resumes tomorrow:
On May 7, Masha Gessen delivered a lecture at the PEN World Visions Festival.

Gessen is highly respected, and she should be. For that reason, the enormous absence of basic skills that day is especially noteworthy.

Plus, that liberal audience!

That said, the children are currently on a stampede. Their day-to-day dissembling is massive.

When Trump supporters discuss "fake news," the horrible truth is, they do have a point.

Donald J. Trump is disordered, deranged. But so is your upper-end "press corps."

The worst stampede we've ever documented was the twenty-month stampede directed at Candidate Gore. This current stampede is astonishing too, even though the current mob is chasing a persistently guilty party.

Are the children "rational animals?" Or are the children more sensibly viewed as a group of misfiring machines?

We've been posing that question the past two weeks. In our next post, we'll walk you through the search that resulted from the first thing we read this morning.

Tomorrow, Gessen returns. Masha Gessen is highly respected. In our view, she should be.

Maddow loses count of the Russians!

MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

Her actual count came to one:
Last Friday night, she made it official:

Rachel Maddow is one of least disguised major dissemblers in the history of "cable news."

Her opening segment on that night included a rich assortment of cons. To watch the full segment, click here.

At one point, Maddow was astonished to think that a Russian lawyer who doesn't speak English might have had a translator present. This is the bullshit she served:
MADDOW (7/14/17): And then we learned that it wasn't just Donald Trump Jr.

Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were at that meeting too, and they too had been notified this was a Russian government attorney coming to meet with them, bringing derogatory information that came from the Russian government.

And then we learned it was not just all of them and the Russian government attorney.

Today, we learned the group also included this guy [Rinat Akhmetshin], who NBC News first identified as a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence. He was there too.

Despite all of these days of reporting and statements and admissions about this meeting, the presence of this guy, this former Russian military intelligence guy, the presence of this guy at the meeting was somehow left out of all of the earlier disclosures and we only found out about that today, thanks to NBC.

In addition to him, there was also reportedly a translator there, who is a relatively well-known person himself. I expect you'll see a bunch of reporting about him and his potential role in this in the days ahead, over the course of the weekend.
That passage starts shortly after the eight-minute mark of the Maddow videotape.

Imagine having a translator there! We have no idea what made Maddow meant by her insinuations about the translator, Anatoli Samochornov. But four hours earlier, this profile had already appeared at the Daily Beast, along with this profile at the Huffington Post.

Long story short: the scary translator, an American citizen, had been vouched for, by Masha Gessen, as "the best intrepreter in New York, hands down." He has worked in all sorts of major international settings, typically for the good guys. Also this, at HuffPo:
SCHULBERG AND BLUMENTHAL (7/14/17): A registered Democrat, Samochornov works with clients on all sides of American and international politics. But his own views appear to be progressive. On Facebook, he has shared clips from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s show, labeled former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Bush-era adviser Karl Rove as losers, and posted in favor of expanded health care coverage and more restricted access to guns. When PEN, the literary and human rights organization, invited a gaggle of Russian writers critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New York, he became “great friends” with them, Gessen said.
Who would allow such a man in the room? Four hours later, Maddow was using this scary Maddow viewer as a way to extend and enhance her brainless, dissembling red scare.

How bad did Maddow's dissembling get? As is often the case, if it weren't for the phony facts she provided, she offered few facts at all.

Go ahead! On your own, note the overt dissembling as she pretended to establish the claim that the Russian lawyer actually was a Russian government lawyer. In the passage below, she served you a flat misstatement:
MADDOW: So that meeting with the upper echelons of the Trump campaign in June of last year, today we learned that it also included a former Russian counterintelligence officer who nobody thought to mention before. He also tells the Associated Press that he and Natalia Veselnitskaya left documents about Hillary Clinton behind at that meeting for the Trump campaign to continue to review. We didn't know that before.
In that passage, Maddow was still playing Akhmetshin as "a former Russian counterintelligence officer." (By the next day, her beloved NBC News would move way back from that claim.)

But whatever you may think about that characterization, Akhmetshin didn't say that "he and Natalia Veselnitskaya" left documents about Hillary Clinton behind. He said that Veselnitskaya did. Full and complete total stop, unless you're getting yourself conned by a con man like Maddow.

That said, the most comical part of Maddow's con occurred when she started counting Russians. You really need to watch the tape to see Maddow clown and emote as she cons you at this point. But in this fuller chunk of text, she is rolling her eyes about all the Russians in the room at the now-famous meeting:
MADDOW: Today, we learned the group also included this guy [Akhmetshin], who NBC News first identified as a former Soviet counterintelligence officer suspected by some U.S. officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence. He was there too.

[...]

In addition to him, there was also reportedly a translator there, who is a relatively well-known person himself. I expect you'll see a bunch of reporting about him and his potential role in this in the days ahead, over the course of the weekend.

That would bring the total number of people in the meeting to, let's see:

Junior, Manafort, Kushner, the lawyer, the ex-counterintelligence guy, the translator.

Oh, also on the lower right hand side there, that's the British guy who wrote the e-mails to Don Jr. in the first place.


That brings the total number of people we now know in the meeting to seven. But CNN is also reporting that actually maybe it was eight, and maybe it was more than eight.

CNN is reporting that there was somebody else in the meeting in addition who was there as a representative of the family of this Putin-linked Russian oligarch who initially took the meeting with Yuri Chaika, with the federal prosecutor in the first place that led to this whole thing.

So, we're now basically waiting to find out if there were any Russians who were in New York that day who were not in that meeting. And if so, is that just because they wouldn"t fit in the elevator? Honestly, like anything else to declare on this?
Maddow's outraged muggng was superb during that performance. Consider:

She said there may have been as many as eight people in the room. Histrionically, she asked if there were any Russkies in New York who weren't at the now-famous meeting.

She failed to note that her own sacred NBC News was saying that the alleged eighth person may have been Akhmetshin himself. She also failed to note this:

Of all the people she identified, only one—the now-famous Russian lawyer herself—wasn't an American or British citizen. The lawyer was the only one! Let's run down the list:
People known to be in the room at the now-famous meeting
"Junior," Manafort and Kushner: American citizens
Akhmetshin: naturalized American citizen
Translator: naturalized American citizen
Music publicist: British citizen
The Russian lawyer: flat-out Russian citizen
Maddow had identified exactly one straight-up Russkie. But uh-oh! Amazingly, she never told her misled viewers that Akhmetshin is an American citizen. She also forgot to mention the fact that the translator is an American citizen too.

She made it sound like all Mother Russia was there. In reality, she had managed to count exactly one person in the room who wasn't a British or American citizen.

We the pitiful liberal viewers weren't permitted to know that.

We don't know what makes Maddow behave in this highly unstable way. But this is very much the way she does behave, at least when she gets on the air.

We've warned you, for quite a few years, about her lack of obsessive honesty. That performance Friday night was an ugly con all the way down.

This ugly con was played on us, her gullible liberal viewers. We are the people who get fooled when this puzzling corporate tool plays these deeply disordered, Trump-like TV games.

There was one Russkie in the room. Maddow shrieked and completely lost count, the number had gone so high.

This actually is what Maddow does. She's been like this for years.

Don't misunderstand this remarkable fact: Maddow never told her viewers that Akhmetshin is an American citizen.

She never told viewers that the very scary translator is an American citizen too. This is what Rachel Maddow does. She's played the game this way for years, as has Donald J. Trump.

Scarborough spots former KGB agent!

MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

Maddow was even worse:
Friday night, she made it official:

Rachel Maddow is one of least disguised major dissemblers in the history of "cable news."

Assuming even minimal competence, Maddow's opening segment was a masterwork of dissembling, misstatement and scary-time propaganda, all aimed at the brains of us unsuspecting liberal viewers.

Liberal viewers were misled in an array of ways. But first, let's talk about Morning Joe's self-promoting rock star, Morning Joe's own Morning Joe.

Despite the fact that he's 54 years old, his rock songs are still about "bad girls." If you believe the Washington Post, "the Harvard types" adore him.

This morning, ten minutes into his program, he was complaining about the lying of the Trump administration. There's a bit of an irony there.

Scarborough sold his soul to pimp King Trump after Trump had spent four years spreading his bogus tales about Obama's Kenyan birth. Now, today, with everything changed, the upright fellow was deeply concerned about Donald J. Trump's alleged lying.

Ten minutes into his program
, here's what the gentleman said:
SCARBOROUGH (7/17/17): David Ignatius, I want to talk about—you know, Elise was talking about "more of the same."

There is one thing that Donald Trump is saying that is more of the same, and that his lawyers are saying, and that the administration is now saying, now that they've just been busted lying time and time and time again about meeting with Russians, about this specific meeting.

Donald Trump, the president of the United States, saying. "Hey! There's nothing new about opposition research, us meeting with a former KGB agent, us meeting with a series of Russians, us lying about the people who were in attendance there...
"Us meeting with a former KBG agent!"

Scarborough simply hates Donald Trump's lying. But he was quick to spew that!

Scarborough was referring to Rinat Akhmetshin, the lobbyist who attended the now-famous meeting at Trump Tower with the now-famous Russian lawyer.

Unless you're watching the Maddow Show, Akhmetshin is a lobbyist who is also an American citizen. He came to this country from his native land, the former Soviet Union, in 1993 ot 1994, when he was 25-27 years old.

By now, even NBC News seems to have agreed that Akhmetshin spent two years in the Soviet army as a teen-age draftee, full stop. Except in the land of high excitement and throwback red scares, there's zero evidence that he was ever "a KBG agent" or anything like it.

Unless you're watch criminal pundits like Morning Joe, or undisguised con men like Maddow. Unless you read the New York Times, which continued its Cold War throwback performance art on Sunday morning's front page.

People, can we talk?

The children are currently on a chase, a stampede, a scare. They are, in fact, behaving like a lynch mob.

Concerning lynch mobs, we'll tell you again what we've told you before:

Lynch mobs have operated all over the world, all through so-called human history. Many times, such mobs have hunted people who were in fact guilty of crimes.

That doesn't mean thay they weren't lynch mobs. That doesn't mean that they weren't behaving in the way of such mobs.

In the current episode, a journalistic lynch mob is chasing a generally guilty party by the name of Donald J. Trump. For decades, their target has engaged in a range of offenses against the public interest.

During much of that time, mobsters like Scarborough were blowing smoke op his astral region and kissing his hind parts to boot. Mika was doing it too, just extremely bigly.

Today, Scarborough is part of a mob. He's behaving like he's part of a mob. He's too lazy to get clear on facts. He's too busy writing and recording his rock songs.

"Meeting with a former KGB agent!" On the front page of the New York Times, it's 1954 all over again. This morning, Scarborough played the same game.

In our next post, we'll review Maddow's astonishing Friday night opening segment. Have liberal viewers ever been so baldly deceived, in so many different ways?

THE RELIABLE ABSENCE OF BASIC SKILLS: Dead German scientists and the AP!

MONDAY, JULY 17, 2017

Part 1—The AP's basic skills:
Last Thursday morning, the New York Times dropped a dime on those misfiring German scientists of the late 18th century.

The topic even made page A3, home of Noteworthy Facts:
Of Interest
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER

[...]

In the late 1700s, German scientists blamed the occurrence of arson on the traumas of menstruation,
a theory that had to be discarded when it was determined that most arsonists were men.
Oof. That fact was drawn from a book review by Jennifer Senior, whose work for the Times has been superb. The noteworthy fact on page A3 made us recall our ruminations on Wittgenstein and Kant.

Last Monday, at the start of our "basic skills" series, we briefly considered Professor Horwich's theory—his theory that the academy turned away from Wittgenstein because Wittgenstein said that previous philosophy should pretty much land on the junk heap of history.

It might be hard to keep teaching your standard Kant course if you accept the idea that traditional philosophy was built upon a foundation of conceptual confusion. And so, alas:

Though Wittgenstein's later work provides an array of highly useful analytical skills, it had to be thrown away! Better him than the familiar, traditional courses in the course catalog!

Is that why Wittgenstein lost favor within the academy? We can't answer that question, though we'd long considered that possibility by the time we read Horwich's essay.

That said, we couldn't help chuckling at the failed attempt of those German scientists to explain the cause of arson. Their embarrassing error made us think of immortal Kant.

In this, our modern misfiring world, we're supposed to roll our eyes at the embarrassing dumbness of European scientists, physicians and such from that embarrassing era. But we're also asked to continue thinking that figures like the immortal Kant (17424-1804) were firing brilliantly on all cylinders—that their immortal analyses and critiques were pretty much right on course!

The planet is losing its biological diversity with each passing year. With the refusal of our logicians to perform their classic guardian role, the planet is also losing its storehouse of analytical skills, or at least is failing to develop the new, advanced skills we need.

We'll return to these musings another day, and to Horwich's essay. For today, let's think about the skill level recently put on display by the Associated Press, the Kant of American news orgs.

Late in April, the AP released this transcript of Julie Pace's interview with President Donald J. Trump. The interview had been granted to mark the president's masterful first hundred days.

As such, the transcript qualifies as a significant journalistic document. But how odd:

The body of the historically significant transcript starts as shown below. Presumably, the "AP" designation marks the questions and statements made by Pace, to whom the interview is attributed:
AP: I do want to talk to you about the 100 days.

TRUMP: Good.

AP: I want to ask a few questions on some topics that are happening toward the end of the interview.

TRUMP: Did you see Aya (Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker who had been detained in the country for nearly three years) ...

AP: Can you tell me a little bit about how that came about?

TRUMP: No, just—you know, I asked the government to let her out. ...

TRUMP: You know Obama worked on it for three years, got zippo, zero.

AP: How did you hear about this story?

TRUMP: Many people, human rights people, are talking about it. It’s an incredible thing, especially when you meet her. You realize—I mean, she was in a rough place.

AP: Did you have to strike a deal with (Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi over this?

TRUMP: No. No deal. He was here. He—I said, “I really would appreciate it if you would look into this and let her out.” And as you know, she went through a trial. And anyway, she was let go. And not only she, it was a total of eight people. ...
After that, a break in the transcript occurs. That text seems to represent the first, self-contained chunk of the interview—and it makes little apparent sense.

"I do want to talk to you about the 100 days," Pace says at the start of this exchange. "I want to ask a few questions on some topics that are happening toward the end of the interview," she quickly adds.

That said, how strange! At no point does the transcript explain what "interview" Pace was citing.

To what "interview" does she refer? We have no idea.

In his response, Trump seems to think that Pace is referring to an event, or set of events, involving an Egyptian-American charity worker whose name seems to be Aya Hijazi. Within the transcript, the reader is given no idea why Trump would have thought that.

What explains this first chunk of this significant transcript? To what "interview" is Pace referring in her initial statement?

She doesn't seem to be referring to some other part of her own interview with Trunp. We find no other place in the AP's transcript where Hizari's name or situation was ever discussed.

Peculiarly, this unexplained chunk of dialogue appears at the very start of this lengthy, significant transcript. Presumably, anyone who peruses the transcript will be instantly puzzled by this initial chunk. But three months after the interview transcript was posted by the AP, there the reference sits, still unexplained. Our big news orgs ted to be like this.

Unless you've worked with the careless transcripts our major news orgs routinely produce, it might be hard to imagine why the AP would publish such a peculiar document. That said, further puzzlement might arise from the punctuation displayed in that brief first interview segment.

We refer to the ellipses which occur at three different places, and to the parentheses which appear in this comment by Trump:
TRUMP: Did you see Aya (Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker who had been detained in the country for nearly three years) ...
As you can see from what we've posted, parentheses also appear in a later comment by Pace.

This may seem like a minor point, but this is a major interview. Did Trump speak the words which appear inside those parentheses? Or were those words inserted as a point of explanation by the AP itself?

We ask because, in standard practice, an inserted statement would probably appear inside brackets. In that case, Trump's statement would look like this:
TRUMP: Did you see Aya [Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker who had been detained in the country for nearly three years] ...
We'll guess that the AP added the parenthetical material. But the transcript has barely started, and already we're guessing about who spoke or wrote a major phrase in a discussion of a topic whose very existence is puzzling.

Meanwhile, alas again! By normal standards, another point of confusion seems to lurk in that interview chunk. We refer to the use of ellipses (dot dot dots} at three separate points.

In standard notation, ellipses are typically inserted to indicate that a deletion of some kind has occurred. If a writer transcribes a statement but omits some part of the statement, those three little dots let the reader know that a deletion occurred.

Typically, that would be standard practice, but our major news orgs tend to be amazingly careless, in various ways, when they prepare their transcripts. In this instance, the AP has offered a brief explainer about its use of those ellipses.

Here's what the AP's explainer says. This text appears at the very start of the AP document, before the body of the transcript appears:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS (4/23/17): A transcript of an Oval Office interview Friday with President Donald Trump by AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace. Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used.
Apparently, the transcript was prepared from an audio recording. According to that brief explainer, ellipses were (sometimes) used when parts of the recording were unclear.

Somewhat remarkably, this seems to mean that, at three separate points in that one short exchange, the audio recording was so unclear that verbiage spoken by Trump couldn't be included. One starts to wonder about the way this interview was recorded.

Beyond that, an additional point is left unexplained. At some points, ellipses will be used to indicate that verbiage was omitted because the audio was unclear. At other points, we're told that the term "unintelligible" will be inserted into the transcript, to indicate the same thing.

Why did the AP mark this problem in two different ways? No explanation appears. Our news orgs tend to be like this.

We run through these points for a reason. Two weeks after this transcript appeared, Masha Gessen, an important journalist, delivered an important lecture at the PEN World Voices Festival in New York City.

In a substantial chunk of her lecture, Gessen worked directly from this AP transcript. She did so very poorly.

In theory, this AP transcript is an important journalistic document. In its execution, it was a bit of a puzzling mess.

And then, the inevitable occurred, bringing in the eternal note of sadness:

When Gessen delivered her lecture, she completely misinterpreted one significant element of the AP transcript. For this reason, it seems fairly clear that Gessen hadn't performed basic due diligence before making use of this document.

It also seems clear that Gessen has little experience working with the amateurish, unreliable transcripts our biggest news orgs routinely produce. It seems to us that Gessen has probably never wrestled with these problematic documents before, trying to determine what was actually said.

Can we talk? Gessen drew a great deal of laughter and applause as she read from the AP transcript during her lecture. As she did, our analysts cringed and wailed.

They were watching a somewhat embarrassing liberal audience laughing and cheering as a badly unprepared major journalist made extremely basic, embarrassing errors as she worked from a somewhat bungled transcript.

The analysts moaned and tore at their hair. "Buck up! What else is new?" we thoughtfully declared.

Long ago, our guardians within the academy walked off their posts. In his essay, Professor Horwich pokes and prods at one possible part of that group's refusal to serve.

This happened within our philosophy departments. But it has also happened at an array of major news orgs, not excluding the Associated Press.

Julie Pace is a thoroughly competent, thoroughly sensible journalist. The transcript purporting to record her interview with Trump is a bit of a puzzling mess.

Gessen is one of our most highly regarded journalists. When she worked from the AP transcript, she made inexcusable errors. And good God, holy smokes, dear lord!

Good God! That liberal crowd!

Tomorrow: Pretending to quote what was said

One other point from that short first chunk: The short first chunk of that AP transcript is riddled with points of confusion.

We don't know what "interview" Pace is referring to in that chunk. Just for the record, we also can't explain this:
TRUMP: No, just—you know, I asked the government to let her out. ...

TRUMP: You know Obama worked on it for three years, got zippo, zero.
Why does Trump seem to speak two consecutive times, without an interjection from Pace?

We can't exactly answer that question. We can tell you this:

When our big news orgs create transcripts, basic transcription skills are commonly missing in action. Our big news orgs are slipshod, careless, deeply unskilled. Again and again and again and again, they don't much seem to care.

The New York Times exhumes Tailgunner Joe!

SATURDAY, JULY 15, 2017

Misfiring all the way down:
The New York Times does some horrible work at the top of this morning's front page.

The Times has dug up the bones of Tailgunner Joe. Covering the same news event, the Washington Post performs a hundred times more capably.

To what news event do we refer? Yesterday, the world learned that a previously unmentioned person was present at Donald Trump Junior's now-famous meeting in June 2016.

That person's name is Rinat Akhmetshin. As the Times begins its front-page report, try to catch the general gist of Eileen Sullivan's portrait:
SULLIVAN (7/15/17): Soviet Veteran Says He, Too, Met Trump, Jr.

He is a veteran of the Red Army, photographed in the 1980s with fellow soldiers in a Russian birch forest.
He collects fine art, likes opera and owns a nearly $2 million townhouse in trendy Logan Circle, in the center of Washington. He often zips around the city on a bright orange bicycle.

On Friday, Rinat Akhmetshin, the Soviet army veteran, revealed another detail of an exotic life: He was one of the people at the meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

The presence of Mr. Akhmetshin adds another development to the evolving narrative about the gathering, which Donald Trump Jr. arranged after learning that a Russian lawyer claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The news of Mr. Akhmetshin’s attendance shows how the story of the meeting keeps changing and has increased pressure on the White House to offer a more comprehensive account of what happened.

Mr. Akhmetshin, a naturalized American citizen who talks openly of his past in a K.G.B. counterintelligence unit focused on hunting spies in the Russian military, is well known in diplomatic and media circles in Washington, where he has worked for years on behalf of business and political interests in Russia and other former Soviet states.
Did you catch the general gist of this portrait? Let's simplify it for our lizards:
Akhmetshin, a veteran of the Red Army, speaks openly about his work for the KGB!
Sullivan is telling a scary story, evoking the scary work once perfected by Tailgunner Joe.

As it turns out, Sullivan actually knows very little about Akhmetshin's service in that scary "Red Army." According to Akhmetshin, he spent two years in the Soviet army as a teenager, after having been drafted. There is no sign in this Times report that Sullivan knows anything different.

But so what? At these highly exciting times, the androids are doing a lot of misfiring. At the Washington Post, by way of contrast, the journalists manage to keep themselves under control today as they handle this same topic.

Sullivan wasn't finished with her colorful evocations of Akhmetshin's scary behavior in those Russian birch forests. First, though, she entertained us a bit:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): It was in that capacity, Mr. Akhmetshin said in an interview on Friday, that he accompanied a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the meeting as part of an effort to amend an American law known as the Magnitsky Act that sanctioned Russians for human rights abuses. The 2012 law infuriated President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose government retaliated by restricting adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

Mr. Akhmetshin, who wears his curly hair high in a manner that associates compare to the protagonist in the 1977 cult-classic horror film “Eraserhead,” said in the interview that he took part in the meeting at the request of Ms. Veselnitskaya. He said he had no ties to the Kremlin.

“I am a target of well-coordinated and financed smear campaign,’’ he said in a text message.
Sullivan writes for a major newspaper whose biggest stars have focused, in the past, on Mayor Giuliani's comb-over, on Candidate Gore's bald spot, and on Candidate Edwards' $400 haircuts.

Its stars have even profiled Candidate Romney's hair stylist, on page one no less! In a related bit of clowning, Sullivan thus moved from Akhmetshin's pogrom-laced past to his amusing hair style.

That said, she wasn't through with the scary stuff about Akhmetshin's work in those forests for the KGB. As she continued, she finally let him have his say, then gave her readers another good scare with another colorful passage:
SULLIVAN (continuing directly): He described his time in the military as routine, serving from 1986 to 1988, like “millions of other Soviet boys.” He said he left the military with the rank of sergeant.

NBC News first reported Mr. Akhmetshin’s role in the Donald Trump Jr. meeting, but did not identify him. He first confirmed to The Associated Press that he attended the meeting.

Mr. Akhmetshin has boasted to associates that he had served in the military with a group known as the Osoby Otdel, or Special Section, which in the Soviet period was a division of the K.G.B. The group was distinct from the G.R.U., or Main Intelligence Directorate of the defense ministry, an organization with which he has denied any affiliation.
In 1986, Akhmetshin was 18 years old. There is no sign in Sullivan's report that his claim—his claim that he served two years as a teen-aged draftee—is anything other than accurate.

(On-line, the Times eventually shows us that photograph of their man, with his comrades, in that scary forest. The gentlemen do indeed look like teens. Decent people can perhaps feel sorry for very young men forced to perform such service.)

There is no sign that Akhmetshin's claim is anything other than accurate.That said, Sullivan wanted to give us one more thrill ride in this general area.

And so we're told that Akhmetshin "has boasted" about the service he gave the KGB. It actually wasn't the GRU, we're also skillfully told.

(As readers, you should always be wary when reporters turn to the insinuative verbs "boasted" and "bragged." Absent very careful reporting, the use of these insinuative terms tends to be a weapon aimed at a disfavored figure.)

As he ponders Sullivan's work, Tailgunner Joe is smiling in his grave. Sensible people will simply say, "There they go again"—a weary reference to the fact that the androids tend to misfire, sometimes badly, at thrilling times like these.

Over at the Washington Post, Helderman and Hamburger wrote a lengthy front-page report about this same new figure. To their credit, they managed to keep themselves under control, starting out like this:
HELDERMAN AND HAMBURGER (7/15/17): A Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military said Friday that he attended a June 2016 meeting between President Trump’s oldest son and a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
In truth, we're not sure that Akhmetshin's military service belongs in paragraph one at all. But after that, you have to read all the way to paragraph 25 to find another reference to that military service.

That scary service in the Red Army is played for scares in today's Times. By way of contrast, the Post engages in behavior which resembles actual journalism:
HELDERMAN AND HAMBURGER: Akhmetshin [is] a controversial figure. In a letter this spring to U.S. government officials, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) described Akhmetshin as a person who “apparently has ties to Russian intelligence.”

Akhmetshin said he never worked as an intelligence agent, but he did say he was drafted as a teenager and served for two years in a unit of the Soviet military that had responsibility for law enforcement issues as well as some counterintelligence matters. He immigrated to the United States in 1993 and gained citizenship in 2009.

“I was not an intelligence officer. Never,” he said.
To its credit, the Post managed to report what is known in this area without throwing the scary terms KGB and GRU all around. For what it's worth, Akhmetshin would have been 25 or 26 when he came to the U.S.

That said, we'll offer one small word of warning concerning Grassley's scary statement.

The scary letter Helderman cites can be seen here. In that scary letter, Grassly quickly voices scary claims about Akhmetshin's "apparent ties to Russian intelligence."

We don't know what sorts of ties may, or may not, exist. We do know this:

Grassley's scary claims are sourced, in footnotes 3 and 4, to a Politico report. The claims he sources to that report are, simply put, not present in that report.

In reality, the scary claims are made in a report by the Daily Caller, an org which may perhaps be less trustworthy. But even there, the Grassley letter quotes the claims in a very slippery manner, heightening the sense of what the Caller actually said.

The androids were apparently misfiring in this tired old hack's office too. Remember this as your favorite liberal stars excitedly sell you this claim from this Republican hack.

Have Donald Trump Junior, or his associates, engaged in illegal or unethical conduct? There are several areas in which the Trump camp could turn out to have broken the law (or not).

They may have helped the Russkies direct "fake news" at voters deemed susceptible (or not). In that instance, they would have been playing an active role in a full-blown election operation which was plainly illegal.

Beyond that, they may helped the Russkies with the dissemination of stolen emails (or not). Presumably, that too would be baldly illegal. (We'll note that some news orgs now screaming about this had a field day pimping those stolen emails all around. They often did so in the most ludicrous and irrelevant manner.)

It isn't clear that anything illegal occurred at that now-famous meeting. (It's also true that no one actually knows, at this point, what did occur at that meeting.)

Based on what is currently known, the conduct at that meeting doesn't rise to the level of the possible scenarios sketched above. But having said that, we'll also say this:

We find it instructive to see major journalists squealing and complaining about the apparent attempt, by Trump Junior, to access information from that Russian lawyer, who may or may not have been a Russian government lawyer. Here's why we find that instructive:

We have said, for many years, that information and facts play almost no role in our discourse. Our "journalists" work from novelized scripts. Again and again and again and again, our "journalism" is novelization all the way down.

Trump Junior says he wanted information about Candidate Clinton. Our journalists are currently avoiding that term, recasting it as "dirt."

We aren't fans of scandal campaigning. But we find it amusing, in a dark way, to see our journalists shrieking, squealing and complaining about an apparent attempt to attain information. As we've told you for many years, it's something they themselves would almost never do!

That front-page report in this morning's Times is pure perfect novelized crap. The androids are misfiring badly today. At our most famous least competent paper, they're misfiring all the way down.

Tailgunner Joe loved the Times report. Citizens, how about you?

Also these: Two additional points:

Here's the headline at TPM: "Former Soviet Counterintel Officer Says He Was In The Room With Don, Jr. Too"

We'll grant you, that's scary/exciting. We should also mention this:

In a 37-paragraph, front-page report, the Washington Post never got around to describing Akhmetshin's wonderfully comical hair. At the Times, a possible android went there in paragraph 6!

Don Lemon works five nights per week!

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017

The New York Times takes it from there:
We kid you not. Yesterday morning, the "Here to Help" feature on the New York Times' page A3 took a gloomy turn.

Someone at the Times was scared. Here's how the feature started:
Here to Help
HOW TO PACK AN EMERGENCY KIT FOR DISASTERS

No matter where you live, your emergency kit for disasters, man-made or otherwise, should always include a go-bag. Here's what to put in yours.
The feature helped us know what to include in eight categories, including Mylar Blankets and Dust Masks. Was this "Here to Help" feature really a comment on President Donald J. Trump?

We don't know, but we kid you not. The day before, the "Here to Help" feature started like this:
Here to Help
A RECIPE FOR SALADE LYONNAISE
We get an eyeroll every morning as we scan A3. This morning, in the "Of Interest" feature, this "noteworthy fact" appeared:
Of Interest
NOTEWORTHY FACTS FROM TODAY'S PAPER

[...]

As the host of "CNN Tonight," Don Lemon is on the air about 260 days a year.
Instantly, we handed it off to our computational mathematics division, asking them to conduct a thorough review of the numbers. After several seconds of work, we were handed these facts:

There are 52 weeks in the year. Multiply by five nights per week. Your answer will be 260.

That noteworthy fact was pulled from this timely, sprawling portrait of Lemon's "grooming routine." Lemon's first quoted statement was this:

"I live by coconut oil and argan oil."

We've sometimes suspected as much!

The piece was written by Bee Shapiro. Aside from her position at the Times, Shapiro is founder of Ellis Brooklyn, "a luxury, eco and sustainable fragrance and bodycare company based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn."

Is any of this a conflict of interest? We aren't sure we can tell.

At any rate, Shapiro reported that Lemon "is on the air around 260 days a year" right in her opening sentence. At page A3, someone else apparently felt that this was a noteworthy fact.

Are we best seen as "the rational animal" or as malfunctioning androids? About 365 days a year, the question crosses our mind.

"Harvard types" [HEART] Mika and Joe!

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017

An unfortunate cultural portrait:
Tomorrow, we plan to review the way the cable corps has limned that now-famous meeting in which, as David Brooks has complained, Don Junior sought "information."

We plan to list a few ways Trump types may turn out to have broken the law (or not). At the same time, we plan to list a few absurdities about the pundit corps' reaction to what is known about that now-famous meeting, at which "information" was sought.

For today, we'll direct you to an unfortunate report from atop the first page of today's Washington Post Style section.

Granted, the piece was written by Monica Hesse, latest regent of upper-end press corps snark and snide, female leadership only need apply. Even allowing for the throwback attitude long adored at Style, we can all cringe a bit as Hesse begins, hard-copy headline included:
HESSE (7/14/17): Lovebirds Joe and Mika all atwitter about Trump

Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski
, high atop the foamed crest of fame that traditionally appears when one half of a couple is accused by the President of the United States on Twitter of having a bloody facelift and the other half of the couple responds by loudly quitting the president’s political party, continued riding their wave on Tuesday night by appearing at the National Archives in Washington.

The affianced co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” it turns out, have also been named visiting fellows to Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.
Wednesday’s talk—an interview conducted by billionaire philanthropist David Rubenstein and attended by an auditorium full of Harvard types—was their first public event as part of this endeavor.

“Tomorrow I’m interviewing George Bush and Bill Clinton together,” Rubenstein shared, “and more people have asked me about this interview than that!”

Scarborough preened. Brzezinski shook her head in apparent disbelief.
Joe and Mika have been named visiting fellows to the Kennedy Institute! According to Hesse, the "Harvard types" at yesterday's event pretty much loved what they heard from the erudite "lovebird" duo.

We're not sure what a visiting fellow does at the Kennedy Institute. Whatever it is, we're fairly sure that Joe and Mika probably shouldn't be doing it.

In fairness, Joe is a perfectly decent political analyst. In fact, he's often a good political analyst, at least when he isn't telling his endless Mittyesque stories about his own flawless campaigns.

As for Mika, she may have many other virtues and skills, but she's easily one of the worst major pundits in all of "cable news."

By way of temperament, she seems completely unsuited to the pundit/analyst role. That may make her a very good person, but it makes her a terrible analyst. She just isn't good in that role, a fact which would be true of a wide range of good, decent capable people.

That said, why are these people being interviewed by a billionaire for a Kennedy Institute event? Their claim to fame is this:

When Donald J. Trump threw his hat in the ring, they pandered, fawned and kissed his ascot right into the early months of 2016. Around the time of Trump's David Duke play, they withdrew their support for the great man who, they say, has changed.

Has J-Trump changed in some fundamental way? By early 2016, Trump had served as Birther King for almost five years. This didn't seem to bother these two as they pandered and fawned and devoted endless air time, and people like this billionaire won't be asking them about that.

Dearest darlings, use your heads! It simply isn't done!

Hesse goes on and on, then on and on, about the "uproarious audience laughter" which kept emerging from the "Harvard types" as Joe and Mika piddled out their various self-involved tales. Hesse is part of the snark machine which has always ruled at Style—including in June 1999, when the section signaled the rest of the corps that the time had come for open war against the vile Candidate Gore.

Hesse's report is built around mandated Style section snark. It also describes the state of upper-end culture surrounding our political journalism.

Donald J. Trump is a disordered man, but rank Trumpism was culturally dominant long before he came among. It's purveyors have long been accepted and praised by one and all, including by our own journalistic leaders over here on the corporate left.

THE PERILS OF SKILL-FREE LIVING: Nomenclature meets nomenklatura!

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017

Part 4—The AP composes a transcript:
In Jim Sheridan's autobiographical film, In America, a young Irish immigrant father is losing his soul in the wake of the death of his son.

The father can't escape or regulate his grief. At one point, he describes the sweep of his losses.

A neighbor chastises him for the way he's failing himself and his two darling daughters. "You don't believe," the neighbor says.

The father responds as follows:
In what? God?

You know, I asked him a favor. I asked him to take me instead of him—and he took the both of us!

And look what he put in my place.

I'm a fucking ghost. I don't exist.

I can't think. I can't laugh. I can't cry.


I can't—feel!
We often think of that speech when we observe the hollowed-out skill set of our celebrity press corps.

They're the gang that can't paraphrase straight. They're the gang that likes to talk about candidates' haircuts and clothes.

They're the gang that invents irrelevant facts and disappears the world's most significant data sets. They're the gang that entertains us each night on our favorite "cable news" shows.

Most of all, they're the gang that works from novelized scripts. They've performed that way at least since early 2000, when E. R. Shipp, then the Washington Post's ombudsman, described the way the Post had cast the four major candidates in that year's White House campaign.

(Shipp described the "roles that The Post seems to have assigned to the actors in this unfolding political drama." Her headline: "Typecasting Candidates." To this day, her short column is the clearest description we've ever seen of the press corps' standard functioning. To read that short column, click here.)

Those journalists! We'd be inclined to call them the gang that can't report or analyze straight. Like the suffering father in Sheridan's film, are they "f*cking ghosts?"

Like that suffering father, they can't seem to think real well at this point. On the other hand, they do seem able to feel. They seem able to feel much too much.

They clearly can't restrict themselves to reporting the things they actually know. In the case of the Associated Press, they can't seem to compose a transcript.

We refer to the transcript of Julie Pace's interview with Donald J. Trump. The venerable news org posted the transcript of the session on April 23 of this year.

You can peruse it here.


The interview was a major "get" for the Associated Press. In effect, it was Trump's official interview about his triumphant and glorious first hundred days in office.

That hundred-day milestone is silly, but standard. Because Trump had provided few interviews, the AP's long session with Trump was a major journalistic event.

Two weeks later, Masha Gessen quoted extensively from the transcript during her May 7 lecture at the PEN World Voices Festival. She did so to laughter and applause from a liberal audience. To watch the lecture, click here.

The AP transcript was flawed. Gesen's use of the transcript was deeply flawed. In a journalistic world which wasn't principally peopled by skill-free ghosts, her performance that day would seem deeply puzzling.

Gessen's lecture dealt with a deeply important subject. She spoke about the destruction of the public discourse which had occurred in her native Russia by the late Soviet period.

Six days later, the New York Review of Books published an adapted version of Gessen's lecture. In the passage shown below, Gessen describes the destruction of language and public discourse under Soviet culture and rule, and the problem journalists faced in the early post-Soviet period.

This passage constitutes an important record of the way tyrants, thugs and possibly f*cking ghosts can destroy the public sphere:
GESSEN (5/13/17): A Russian poet named Sergei Gandlevsky once said that in the late Soviet period he became obsessed with hardware-store nomenclature. He loved the word secateurs, for example. Garden shears, that is. Secateurs is a great word. It has a shape. It has weight. It has a function. It is not ambiguous. It is also not a hammer, a rake, or a plow. It is not even scissors. In a world where words were constantly used to mean their opposite, being able to call secateurs “secateurs”—and nothing else—was freedom.

“Freedom,” on the other hand, was, as you know, slavery. That’s Orwell’s 1984. And it is also the USSR, a country that had “laws,” a “constitution,” and even “elections,” also known as the “free expression of citizen will.” The elections, which were mandatory, involved showing up at the so-called polling place, receiving a pre-filled ballot—each office had one name matched to it—and depositing it in the ballot box, out in the open. Again, this was called the “free expression of citizen will.” There was nothing free about it, it did not constitute expression, it had no relationship to citizenship or will because it granted the subject no agency. Calling this ritual either an “election” or the “free expression of citizen will” had a dual effect: it eviscerated the words “election,” “free,” “expression,” “citizen,” and “will,” and it also left the thing itself undescribed. When something cannot be described, it does not become a fact of shared reality. Hundreds of millions of Soviet citizens had an experience of the thing that could not be described, but I would argue that they did not share that experience, because they had no language for doing so. At the same time, an experience that could be accurately described as, say, an “election,” or “free,” had been preemptively discredited because those words had been used to denote something entirely different.

When I was a young journalist, I went back to my country of birth to work in my native language. In the early 1990s, Russian journalists were engaged in the project of reinventing journalism—which itself had been used to perform the opposite of conveying reliable information. Language was a problem. The language of politics had been pillaged, as had the language of values and even the language of feelings...
Gessen, who has walked the walk, is describing an important part of world history and human experience.

In fairness, her metaphysics is a bit fuzzy here. She never explains why this "free expression of citizen will," which was in fact an "overt governmental sham," couldn't be described in such a way, thereby "becoming a fact of shared reality." (We'll recall this objection next week.)

We mention this because it's important to avoid getting slippery about such an important topic. Gessen's lecture becomes even more important as she proceeds to compare this Soviet-era journalistic dilemma to the way our own American discourse is crumbling in this, the early Trump era.

Have we mentioned the fact that Masha Gessen has actually walked the walk? We'll recommend major respect for such an admirable person, but we'll warn against the common human instinct to confer the status of god on Gessen, or on anyone else.

Gessen covered those same points in her May 7 lecture. As she continued, she drew laughter and applause, working from the AP transcript of the interview with Donald J. Trump.

The transcript is remarkably puzzling in certain ways, especially given the importance of the interview the AP was recording. We're forced to say that Gessen's use of the transcript was substantially worse.

In her lecture, Gessen seemed to think that the corruption of our own public discourse could only be coming from Trump. It didn't seem to occur to her that the corruption of our own discourse might also be coming from the laughing, applauding liberal audience which was cheering her on, or from the journalists who did the typecasting Shipp described almost twenty years ago.

That AP transcript is a study in the banality of the press corps' lack of basic skills. We'll tell you why we'd say such a thing when we resume on Monday.

Gessen took a shaky route from there. As she worked from the AP transcript, her lack of due diligence was apparent. The audience laughed and applauded.

Gessen spoke of the loss of clear nomenclature during the Soviet period. Our warning concerning Gessen, whose soul is very much worth saving:

That suffering father was becoming a ghost. Is she in danger of becoming a part of our own nomenklatura?

Coming Monday: The banality of incompetence